The growth of B2C eCommerce is undeniable. Anyone and everyone shops or sells online. It’s the push that has made brick and mortar retailers sell to online marketplaces and establish themselves as a well rounded brand.
But the growth of B2B eCommerce is right on the heels of B2C.
In fact, B2B eCommerce is projected to reach $6.7 trillion by 2020.
This isn’t just a happy coincidence. Manufacturers and wholesalers are making the switch to online platforms, too, and see B2C and brick and mortar retailers as their next acquisition. But in order for B2C retailers or brands to expand into B2B sales, they need a warehouse management system to facilitate the purchases, data storage, and inventory allocation (to name a few).
To expand your business in any capacity, you need a system that can keep track of your inventory. A system that is built for industry change and one that can scale with your company, no matter if you’re selling just B2B or B2C, or a combination of both.
Let’s look at the ways you can expand your B2C company into a B2B company with the structure of a warehouse management system.
How B2C Sellers Can Expand to B2B
First things first.
You can’t sell to B2B customers the same way as B2C customers. This is another topic entirely for another time, but for now you should know the purchase habits and needs of a B2B customer are different from B2C.
B2B customers need more educational information on your product before making a purchase, as well as a more customized experience since their purchases involve different variables.
According to a Forrester Research in 2017 on the Death of A (B2B) Salesman, 68% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct initial research online on their own, as compared to 53% in 2015.
Although a brief view into B2B consumer habits, it’s important to make this distinction first before making the jump to include wholesale buyers.
Now that we’ve skimmed over that aspect of selling to B2B customers, let’s get into how you can expand into B2B sales with a warehouse management system.
Warehouse Management System Features for B2B
Setting up reports to track inventory quantities is invaluable no matter your business model, but they especially come into play when you’re expanding into B2B.
The replenishment report within SkuVault is your best friend as a brand. When you’re juggling inventory in a storefront, online marketplace, AND to wholesalers, organizations, or suppliers, the replenishment report is key to keeping track of your inventory across multiple sale outlets.
Within this report is a reorder point that becomes just as important and bigger with expansion. Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs) and Incremental Quantities are used to help with reordering when you’re ordering in bigger bulk sizes for the B2B side of things. MOQs help retailers if they receive discounts from vendors because of order quantity.
The replenishment report not only tracks inventory levels, but it also lets you know when an item is running low and when you need to reorder. So if an item is running low in your storefront, but you’ve got plenty of it to transfer over from your B2B supply warehouse, the replenishment report makes that transition seamless and instant.
When you’re a B2C business selling online, the rules and functions for connecting marketplace channels to a warehouse management system are fairly straightforward.
However, when you want to expand B2C to include B2B, the functionality can become a little more complex. This is where an open API within the WMS becomes crucial.
SkuVault is built with an open API system to plug in and customize any integration you may need. So if you’re selling in storefronts, online marketplaces, and to wholesalers, your integration needs are going to get more complex.
An open API is great for brands with this business model because you can customize integrations to fit any situation. Without a WMS you won’t have this same type of capability, and instead will be left to the devices of a marketplace channel and their capabilities.
As you expand your brand to include B2B sales, the function of software integrations becomes more important. More is expected out of the reliability of integrations, so you need to make sure the information from each is housed in a safe way.
A WMS acts as a hub for integrations. All inventory levels and sales data from various integrations is connected and stored within the WMS dashboard.
For example, your POS software needs to be synced properly in any event, but especially with the expansion into more sales channels that B2B demands. A WMS connects the POS to ensure the quantities available in a storefront don’t take away from the quantities available in the B2B supply.
Additionally, when the WMS acts as the hub for your spread out inventory levels, it also connects the various warehouses you may have for each sale channel. So if you’ve got a warehouse that stores inventory for your storefront and a separate warehouse to store inventory for your online marketplaces, a warehouse management system can manage and track those inventory levels too, no matter where they’re located.
This may go without saying, but quality control should be even tighter when you expand to B2B.
Quality control is important no matter how many ways you sell a product, but it becomes more important when you’re dealing with additional sale outlets and bigger pallets.
It’s not as taxing to quality control single-line item orders or even small multi-line item orders. But when you’re QCing huge bulk pallets to a wholesaler, the process can require more time and greater attention to detail.
The difference could cost your business. If you miss an item here or there to an online sale, the repercussions will of course hurt your sales, but it’s not the end of the world. But if you QC a few bulk pallets incorrectly, it could cost you financially and hurt the relationship with the wholesale buyer.
Quality control within SkuVault is equipped to handle any order of any size.
Synced Quantity Updates
In a similar tone to the QC process, synced quantity updates across sales channels becomes a bigger monster to tame when you include B2B sales.
A good WMS should be able to sync quantity updates across all connected channels in a matter of minutes. This is especially important when you’re handling mass quantity updates for wholesale orders. Channel Buffers are also helpful. Customize your channel listing quantities to only push a certain percentage of individual components out so you never run the risk of out-of-stocks on other channels.
A giant wholesale order can easily turn into an out-of-stock if your channels aren’t synced to the warehouse management system properly. And an out-of-stock with a 300 item order is a lot harder to hide than a few out-of-stock items. Organizations that rely on your brand to purchase wholesale products expect items to be in stock across any channel.
Don’t let them down with lazy WMS implementation in the beginning.